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Speak up Speak out: Sexual violence is happening in our backyard

Written by  Wednesday, 25 January 2017 08:18

Jesus commanded his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations and teaching them to obey everything he has taught them. 1 Our purpose, as the church, is to keep this commandment. Christ gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors, and teachers, to equip his people for the works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up until we reach unity. 2 We are called to encourage and build one another not tearing each other apart and committing unspeakable crimes and injustice under cover of serving Christ.


Our church today is filled with those who claim to be teachers, pastors, prophets, elders and leaders who are sexually assaulting women and getting away with it. For the sake of this piece, I have deemed necessary to explain what I mean by sexual violence. Sexual violence is any sexual act that is committed against someone’s will and consent. This acts can be attempted or completed rape, unwanted sexual contact (intentional touching of the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks), verbal pressure and manipulation of victims into complying with the sexual act.3 It is any act that results in physical, sexual, social and psychological harm to women.


We live in a patriarchal society which by definition lowers the status of women which in return increases the incidents of victim blaming. Victims, often are afraid to speak out and if they do, they face a significant resistance that further victimizes and ostracizes them. The patriarchal culture assumes that the crime committed against them is somehow their fault; it was something they said, the clothes they wore, the way they spoke. When a woman has endured a sexual violence, it is most often assumed she tempted her perpetrator and instigated the attack. Especially when the perpetrator is in ministry (pastor, teacher, prophet, etc.). If they come forward, the church does not have measures to take against the perpetrator, to rehabilitate the victim, and to hinder further victimization.


Another issue is the culture of silence. Silence, the unspoken consensus not to discuss a given subject, as a social behavior has become cultural and in the church considered as biblical principles. It is rather discouraged to come forward if someone is a victim of sexual violence or any other injustice. It is mostly hidden, brushed under the rug. After all, people only see what is in front of them and not what is concealed. We somehow think not discussing this issue in public and addressing it is forgiveness and humility. We believe that we will tarnish the reputation and service of the perpetrators. We think it will hinder the work of Christ in them. We justify it, cover it up, and pray it away. It is not an easy subject to talk about, trust me I know, I have known about this for a very long time, and I know some people who have had to experience sexual violence. Like most of you, I did not do anything about it until today. We have to start at some point somewhere. Let today be that day.


We have high regard for those in ministry we fail to think they are humans just like us. They are sinners who have fallen short of God’s glory just like us.4 Because we see them on stage and we see the manifestation of God’s anointing on them, we automatically put our trust on them and let our guards down. We do not think or admit they are capable of committing such crimes. We rely on them so much that we put ourselves in situations where we would not have otherwise. Since they are trusted, and that our doors are open to them almost without any reservation, an ideal opportunity for the attack is created. In saying so, though, I am in NO WAY indicating it is the victim’s fault to have opened our doors in the first place.


I am also not insinuating that we should treat those in ministry with any less respect, God has imparted his gifts on them according to his grace and kindness, and not all of them have character flaws. We are taught to obey our leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over our souls, as those who will have to give an account.5 Nevertheless, we are also taught not to believe every spirit but to test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for there are many who come to us in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 6 Moreover, we need to differentiate between character and anointing; a person can have the endowment of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God and his purpose and yet have flawed character. Joseph and Samson in the Bible both had the anointing, but we see a character flaw on Samson but a firm and Godly character on Joseph. Therefore, our respect and obedience should not be to the point where we think they are saintly than the rest of us, hide their habitual, continual sin and justify their actions.


Love and truth go hand in hand; they are two sides of the same coin. If we say we have God’s love, then it must be paired with the truth. Not talking and taking action against the crimes is not love, love does not delight evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 So let us not deceive ourselves that by keeping quiet about the misconducts in the church, we have love. Love is a verb it is an action that must be lived. If we love Jesus, we keep his commandment, 8 and his command is to maintain love and justice. 9 God abhors injustice; he will reveal the deep things of darkness and brings the utter darkness into the light. 10 Turning a blind eye will not make the problem disappear we have to fight it head on before it comes knocking on our door (if it had not already).


Have you heard stories of sexually violated by those in ministry or not in ministry? What did you do about it?


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Are you a victim of such act: I just want to say that I empathize with you and I am sorry that you had to go through that and yet for having to keep it for yourself and suffering alone. But, you are not alone. I am here to hear you, to help you heal and to love you. Please reach out to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and tell me your story let me be your friend. Let us start the journey of healing together because two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls, one can help the other up. 11 


Are you the perpetrator: I only say this, God cannot be mocked, and you will reap what you sow. God’s patience and kindness are intended to lead you to repentance not to give you cover to continue in your sinful ways.


The rest of us: Let us change our culture of silence. I am certain what you just read is not new news. You at least know one person who has had this experience. The victims are our sisters, our mothers, and our friends; they are closer to us than we think. ALL of us together are Christ’s body, and each of us part of it. Stand with me, let us speak up and speak out. Talk about it at your bible study, with your friends, at home with your family. Let us come together and end sexual violence in the church. The church should and must be the safest place, our safe haven not a place we feel unsafe. Please reach out to me (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and lets come up with ways to purify our church. Because among us there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.12


A note of caution: when you read this do not think that the laity is insusceptible from this. I just emphasized on those in ministries because they are leaders we look up. Much is given to them, and much is expected from them. They should in theory and practice be the ones that save us from our pains and problems not add to it.

1 Matthew 28:18-20, New International Version (NIV)
2 Ephesians 4:11-13, New International Version (NIV)
3 Basile KC, Smith SG, Breiding MJ, Black MC, Mahendra RR. Sexual Violence Surveillance: Uniform Definitions and Recommended Data Elements, Version 2.0. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2014.
4 Romans 3:23, New International Version (NIV)
5 Hebrews 13:17, English Standard Version (ESV)
6 1 John 4:1; Matthew 7:15-20, English Standard Version (ESV)
7 1 Corinthians 13:7, New International Version (NIV)
8 John 14:15, New International Version (NIV)
9 Hosea 12:6, New International Version (NIV)
10 Job 12:22, New International Version (NIV)
11 Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, New International Version (NIV)
12 Ephesians 5:3, New International Version (NIV)

Seen 1786 times Last modified on Wednesday, 25 January 2017 12:03
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Semayawi Thought is an online magazine published in Amharic and English, focused on contents to spiritual and personal growth.